I have been giving a lot of thought to the situation arising between Fox News, Gretchen Carlson and Roger Ailes. There seem to be many sides to this in media at the moment – from female colleagues of Ailes defending his impeccable behavior, to anonymous female Fox News employees coming out in support of Carlson’s allegations of a sexist workplace culture. However, I can’t help but draw parallels between Fox’s current situation and that of the CBC when the Jian Ghomeshi sexual harassment scandal came to light. The way the CBC handled the situation, with little transparency, not only damaged their journalistic integrity, but allowed Ghomeshi to claim that he was the victim in a situation where, eventually, it was clear that he was in the wrong despite his acquittal. Additionally, the CBC focused on the particular case of sexual harassment, rather than on addressing their endemic culture of celebrity that allows certain individuals to harass with impunity.
While the CBC’s scandal arose in the arts and entertainment section of their business, Fox News is faced with a scandal that can seriously damage their journalistic integrity if it’s handled incorrectly. In order to maintain any sort of credibility, they will have to seriously examine not only Roger Ailes, but the culture of sexism that may or may not be present in their business. While some employees, like Greta Van Susteren, have stated that they have never experienced sexism in the Fox News environment, others seem to be coming forward to corroborate what Carlson is alleging (albeit anonymously). Either way, the internal investigation will need to be objective, comprehensive, and most importantly transparent with the public that watches Fox News daily for information. If it turns out that these allegations are false, it will only embolden predators at the workplace to continue to sexually harass their colleagues. Conversely, if Fox News shoves this lawsuit under the rug, it’ll be damming to their reputation as a reputable news organization. Either way, it should not be left to the court of public opinion to decide.
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